Hall-Mills murder case

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The Hall-Mills murder case involved the death of an Episcopal priest in New Jersey and a member of his choir on September 14, 1922, while they were having an affair. The suspected murderers were the priest’s wife and her brothers, but they were never convicted.


Discovery of bodies:

On September 16, 1922, the two bodies were discovered on their backs, both shot in the head with a .32-calibre pistol, the man once and the woman three times. The bullet entered the man’s head over his right ear and exited through the back of his neck. The woman was shot under the right eye, over the right temple and over the right ear. A police officer at the scene noticed that the woman’s throat had been severed and maggots were already in the wound, indicating the death occurred at least twenty-four hours earlier. The bodies appeared to have been positioned side by side after death. Both of the bodies had their feet pointing toward a crab apple tree. The man had a hat covering his face and his calling card was placed at his feet. Torn up love letters were placed between the bodies. Initial confusion was created because the crime scene was near the Middlesex County and Somerset County border. New Brunswick, New Jersey (Middlesex County) police arrived first, but the crime scene was in Somerset County. Curiosity-seekers trampled the scene and took souvenirs as the jurisdictional issue was being settled. Evidence was severely compromised, including Hall’s calling card being passed among the crowd.
The woman’s body:
The woman was identified as Eleanor Reinhardt (1888-1922), the wife of James E. Mills (1878-1965). She was wearing a blue dress with red polka dots, black silk stockings, and brown shoes. She had worn a blue velvet hat that was on the ground near her body, and her brown silk scarf was wrapped around her throat. Her arm had a bruise and there was a tiny cut on her lip. Her left hand had been positioned, after death, to touch the man’s right thigh. An autopsy four years later showed that her tongue had been cut out.
The man’s body:
The man was identified as Edward Wheeler Hall (1881-1922), a New Brunswick Episcopal priest. He was found with his right arm repositioned, after death, to touch the woman’s neck. His hat covered his face, which concealed the gun wound to his head. He wore a pair of glasses. There was a small bruise on the tip of his ear and abrasions were found on his left little-finger and right index-finger. A wound was found five inches below his kneecap on the calf of his right leg. His watch was missing and there were coins in his pocket.
Investigation:
The suspects were Hall’s wife Frances Noel Stevens (1874-1942) and her two brothers, Henry Hewgill Stevens (1869-1939); and William “Willie” Carpender Stevens (1872-1942). The original 1922 investigation by Joseph E. Stricker (?-1926) led to no indictments. Continued speculation in the New York Daily Mirror, fuelled by comments made by a man associated with one of Mrs Hall’s housekeepers, led the then New Jersey governor A. Harry Moore to order a second investigation and a trial in 1926. This time, Henry de la Bruyere Carpender, a cousin of the brothers, was also named as a suspect but was cleared before the retrial of the original suspects.
Trial:
The trial began on November 3, 1926 in the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville, New Jersey with Charles W. Parker presiding as judge, and it lasted about 30 days. It garnered huge national attention in the newspapers and on radio, largely because of the social status of the wealthy Stevens and Carpender families. The prosecuting attorney was Alexander Simpson, and the attorney for the defense was Robert H. McCarter, a former New Jersey Attorney General. Raymond C. Stryker (1883-1955) was the foreman of the jury, and Joseph A Faurot (1874-1942) was the testifying fingerprint expert. The prosecution’s key witness, Jane Gibson, was unreliable and changed details of the story each time she told it. Her account varied when told to the police, the newspapers, and at her trial testimony which came from a hospital bed rolled into the court room. Frances Stevens Hall and her two brothers had the motive and the means for the murder, but there was not enough evidence to convict them.

Victims

Eleanor Reinhardt Mills
 Eleanor Reinhardt
(1888-1922) Mills
 Eleanor Reinhardt (1888-1922) was married to James E. Mills. They lived at 49 Carman Street in New Brunswick, New Jersey. James was acting sexton at St John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in New Brunswick and full-time janitor at the Lord Stirling Elementary School in New Brunswick. Eleanor and James had the following children: Charlotte E. Mills (1906-1952) who would marry Harry Joseph O’Neill in Philadelphia in December 1932; and Daniel Mills (1910-1992). Eleanor; James; and daughter, Charlotte; were buried in Van Liew Cemetery, New Brunswick.
Edward Wheeler Hall
Edward Wheeler Hall married Frances Noel Stevens on July 20, 1911. He was raised in Brooklyn, receiving his theological degree in Manhattan. After graduation he moved from New York to Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and then to St John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Edward was living at 23 Nichols Avenue in New Brunswick at the time of the murder. He was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Suspects

Henry de la Bruyere
Carpender (1882-1934)

Henry de la Bruyere Carpender

Henry de la Bruyere Carpender (1882-1934) was born on May 15, 1882 to John Neilson Carpender and Anna Neilson Kemp. He lived with his wife Mary Nielson at the corner of Suydam Street and Nichol Avenue in New Brunswick. Henry was a cousin of Frances Noel Stevens Hall, whose mother was a Carpender. He worked as a Wall Street stockbroker. Although he was an initial suspect, he was never brought into the main trial. He died on May 26, 1934, and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, New Brunswick.
Frances Noel Stevens Hall
Frances Noel Stevens (1874-1942) was born on June 13, 1874 to Francis Kerby Stevens (1840-1874) and Mary Noel Carpender (1840-1919). Frances and Edward married on July 20, 1911. She was buried on December 21, 1942 in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New

Frances Noel Stevens
(1874-1942) Hall

York with her husband. In the prosecution’s scenario she instigated the murder of her cheating husband. Her home was later bought by Rutgers University and used as the residence for the Dean of Douglass College. She was related to many of the wealthy families of New Brunswick including the Carpenters, Nielsons, and possibly the Johnsons of Johnson & Johnson.

Henry Hewgill Stevens
Henry Hewgill Stevens (1869-1939) was born on November 10, 1869 and married Ethel Griffin on June 27, 1901. He was a retired exhibition marksman and lived in Lavallette, New Jersey. In the prosecution’s scenario he fired the shots. Henry testified that he was fishing miles away from the murder on the night of the killing, and three witnesses corroborated his testimony. He died of a heart attack on December 3, 1939 in Lavallette, New Jersey.
William Carpender Stevens

William Carpender
Stevens (1872-1942)
William Carpender Stevens (1872-1942) was born on March 13, 1872. He owned a .32-calibre pistol like the one used in the murder, although the firing mechanism was supposed to have been filed down so that he could not hurt himself with it. In the prosecution’s scenario he provided the weapon, and his fingerprint was found on a calling card left at the scene of the crime. Willie came over a colourful character on the witness stand. He was incapable of holding a job and spent most of the time hanging out at a local firehouse. He died on December 30, 1942.

Witness

Jane Gibson
Jane Gibson (c.1870-1930) and her son William lived in an old barn converted into living space off De Russey’s Lane. She raised hogs, which earned her the name “pig lady” and the “pig woman” in the newspaper accounts. Jane told investigators that her dog was barking loudly about 9 pm on the

Jane Gibson  
(c.1870-1930)

night of the murder. She investigated and saw a man standing in her cornfield. She rode her mule toward Easton Avenue to approach the man in the cornfield. As she neared him she realised there were not one, but four people standing near a crab apple tree. Jane heard gunshots and one of the figures fell to the ground. She testified that she heard a woman scream: “Don’t” repeated three times. She said she turned her mule in the opposite direction, heard more gunshots and when she looked back, saw a second person fall down. She also heard a woman shout out the name “Henry”. Her version differed from what the coroner had concluded, and her story changed with each retelling. 

Source: I originally wrote this article for Wikipedia.